War Department, Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned Lands, Washington, February 23, 1866

February 26, 1866


The Freedmen's Bureau will continue to operate as Johnson supports its existence despite the Bureau's "corrupt and incapacitated" nature.


To the Assistant Commissioner: Dear Sir,- Anticipating the excitement that will necessarily follow the action of the Government with reference to the new freedmen's bill, you may feel somewhat embarrassed in the duties devolving upon you under the law and regulations already existing. That you may act steadily and firmly in any emergency, you must be prepared for any increased hostility on the part of those who have so persistently hindered and troubled you and your agents, and, it may be, an increased restlessness amongst the freedmen. The President has assured the Commissioner that he regards the present law as continuing the existence of the Bureau at least a year from this time. Please ascertain and report what steps have been taken in your district, by the State and municipal authorities, to provide for the absolutely indigent and suffering refugees and freedmen who have been, and are being, thrown upon the General Government for support. Continue to use every possible effort to find good homes for orphan minors who are dependent, and to reduce, by means of employment offices, any accumulations of people in the different cities and villages, aiding the unemployed to find homes and place of labor. You have succeeded in allaying strife, settling labor, and promoting education, in the midst of great difficulties. Continue with your utmost energy and ability to pursue the same course, so as to demonstrate to the people of your district the good intentions of the Government and the complete practicability of the system of free labor. Give a thorough inspection of every agent for whom you are responsible. Immoralities, corruption, neglected duty, and incapacity, are sometimes complained of against officers and agents of this Bureau. If either of these charges be sustained, on investigation the guilty agent will be at once removed, whether he can be replaced or not. Thanking you heartily for the energy and fidelity you have thus far displayed, the Commissioner is pleased to express an unwavering confidence in your ability to cope with any new difficulties that may arise. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, O.O. Howard, Major-General, Commissioner
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“War Department, Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned Lands, Washington, February 23, 1866,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed June 1, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/73.